Encoding messages

When I think about the communication process, I tend to think about how deceptively complex our interactions really are. We think that we’re just talking, but we are always saying SO much more than we otherwise intend. What we wear, the words we use, our body movements, even our basic eye glances, communicate to the world what we think, feel, or believe.

All of these things are part of the process of encoding, which you can read about on pages 6 and 7 of your textbook. Encoding is how we send a message to another person, and one of the most amazing things about it is that we often don’t realize how much we share without considering it.

The clothes we wear to school may tell our peers and instructors that we value comfort foremost, or that we have an important speech to give that day, each without words.

Our choices for encoding, or how we send messages, are rooted in our frame of reference. The words we use to describe that gay classmate indicate how we were raised. We casually say that R-word (describing a developmental disability) when we talk of homework or a song tells people we probably didn’t encounter people with that disability.

Our frame of reference (see, it keeps coming back!) helps us choose words, gestures, or channels that meet the needs of the receiver. When we talk to a small child, we use simpler words, but around our instructors, we elevate our speech. All of this comes back to frame of reference.

In the next post, we’ll talk about encoding’s counterpart, decoding.


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